How hard do small business owners work?

business support development productivity remote working small business wellbeing Jan 29, 2022

Being an entrepreneur has many different definitions. It is a very individual journey that takes great dedication and hard work. Most commonly, an entrepreneur is defined as someone who starts a business and is willing to take risks in order to make a profit. However, this all stems from great passion whilst taking a huge amount of learning and unfaltering commitment. Those confident in their path who are able to recognise opportunities, generate innovative ideas and are incredibly focused can have substantial success. Many, but not all, of these exceptionally dedicated people become small business owners. With the incredible journey they’ve already embarked on to reach this level of success, they take great pride in what they do and are likely to sustain their tenacious attitude that got them there. With all this in mind, their journey still has far to go. Below are the biggest asked questions about what it really takes to be a small business owner.


How much time is spent being a small business owner?


‘One survey from New York Enterprise Report found that small business owners work twice as much as regular employees. It also found that 33% of small business owners reported working more than 50 hours per week, and 25% said they work more than 60 hours a week.’


How Hard Small Business Owners Work | SCORE


Being a small business owner involves huge dedication which results in many working increased hours than a regular employed person. On average, an employee would work under 40 hours a week. In surveys across many organisations, small business owners report working between 50 and 60 hours per week. This increased workweek is partly because a percentage of owners believe that only they can complete certain tasks or because they have concerns that they will fall behind if they take time away from work (see below).


What do small businesses owners miss out on?


‘69% say they answer business emails in their “free” time. 

91% work on the weekends. 

26% never stop thinking about their company. 

16% haven’t taken a vacation in over four years.’

Business Owners Need to Take Vacation Too | Exelare


Small business owners are more likely to spend less time with family, friends and take time off to both socialise and rest. This includes working out of allocated hours as well as weekends, constantly evaluating and thinking of their business and not taking time off. This sacrifice causes them to miss events along with family engagements and other life-balance aspects that come with being an employee. 

What financial sacrifices do small business owners make?


‘The Kabbage survey found almost half (47%) of SBOs use personal savings to pay for aspects of their business, while 21% use more than a quarter of these savings. Interestingly, using personal savings to start a business is most common among millennials (75%).’


What It Takes To Be A Small Business Owner (


With an increased number of startups, millennials have been making bigger sacrifices with their financials. Previously, just under half of small businesses owners were using personal funds to pay for various parts of their business but now this is three-quarters of new business owners. Often the use of personal finances is the reason for the increased work ethic of small business owners because they put themselves at risk if they aren't successful.


Is there a work-life balance for small business owners?


‘If the “average” job consists of 40 hours per week with a two-week vacation, small business owners are working far more than average. But are they working too hard? In most cases, yes - 79% believe that they are working too much.’


With such pressure from finances to success, many small business owners believe they are working too much. With over three-quarters of small business owners agreeing that they are working too much, it's noticeable how much of an impact this then has on their work-life balance. This can become unhealthy if not regulated appropriatley. 


‘The biggest reason small business owners are working more than they should? Because they feel like there are some tasks only they can handle (32%). A significant number also reported that their business requires a temporary increase in working hours (16%), that they need to make more money (13%), or that they’re worried about falling behind (8%).’


Survey: Work-Life Balance is Possible, Less for Entrepreneurs (


As previously mentioned, many reach a disadvantaged work-life balance because they believe that there are tasks that only they are capable of doing or they don’t have the right people in place to help them complete these tasks to the standard they want. This can then result in an increased amount of hours in a week needed to complete these tasks which inevitably will result in accumulating more profit - another concern that small business owners have is the need to make more money. In comparison, 8% of small business owners are worried about falling behind which affects how much they work along with their mental health.


How much of an individual is invested in being a small business owner?


‘56% of the entrepreneurs surveyed said they felt like they could never be away from their business, while 51% said they didn't have time to focus on themselves.’


Pros and Cons of Being a Small Business Owner -


The reduction in people taking holiday or time off because they are small business owners is also reflected in those who feel as though they can’t be away from their business. The overbearing responsibility along with the pressure of success causes small business owners to want to reduce the amount of time they are away from their business. This is also reflected in the difficulty they find in looking after themselves both mentally and physically. 


Do small businesses experience poorer mental health?


‘Inability to focus (66%) was most commonly reported by small business owners, followed by the anxiety (64%) and disrupted sleep (63%). Almost a quarter (24%) have panic attacks and 37% experience symptoms of depression.’


Four in five small business owners tell us they’re experiencing poor mental health - Mental Health UK (


There have been many studies conducted on whether small business owners experience more difficulty than others. With owning any business big or small, there are increased levels of stress due to the nature of the work. Mental Health UK’s study breaks down the health difficulties that small business owners are reporting. With an inability to focus at the top and over half of the small business owners reporting it, anxiety was only just behind it. Following very closely was having difficulty sleeping whilst nearly a quarter were experiencing panic attacks and 37% were having symptoms of depression. With all of these intrinsically linked, the sacrifices made to be a successful small business include financial, mental and social aspects. 


In conclusion, from entrepreneur to small business owner and beyond, those who choose this path work exceptionally hard and make many sacrifices for their passion. They spend more time working than traditional employees. They rarely take time off and miss out on events. They use their own personal finances to help their business including when they first start. Their work-life balance is often leaning towards their business instead of looking after themselves. This reduces the amount of time they spend on themselves and can result in poorer mental health. However, many deem the return of this hard work to positively impact the rest of their life. By losing holiday time now, they will be able to spend more time with their families in the future. By investing in their business from their own finances, they push themselves to do better and see an increased return. Being a small business owner is hard work and with this comes great rewards. 


At One20 we believe that being a small business owner is a wonderful journey, but feel strongly that that responsibility should be taken to look after oneself. By investing as much into a business as well as oneself a harmony of positivity and success can be created and maintained. 


Be sure to check out One20’s resources to help you become the successful small business owner without making detrimental sacrifices. 

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